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Legacy Mortgage, Inc., A Hawaii v. Title Guaranty Escrow

May 10, 2013

LEGACY MORTGAGE, INC., A HAWAII CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TITLE GUARANTY ESCROW SERVICES, INC., A HAWAII ) CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



ORDER ADOPTING IN PART AND ) MODIFYING IN PART FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION REGARDING AWARD OF ATTORNEYS' FEES

I. INTRODUCTION

On April 18, 2013, Plaintiff Legacy Mortgage, Inc. ("Plaintiff") filed its Objection, Doc. No. 46, to the Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendation Regarding Award of Attorneys' Fees ("F&R"), recommending that Defendant Title Guaranty Escrow Services, Inc. ("Defendant") be awarded attorneys' fees of $6,525.00. Doc. No. 45, at 4. After careful consideration of the F&R, Objection, court record, and relevant legal authority, the F&R is ADOPTED in part and MODIFIED in part.

II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On January 4, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Stay this case pending the disposition of separate, but related, actions against Defendant and others in state court. Doc. No. 19. On February 4, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Voluntary Dismissal Without Prejudice, Doc. No. 24, a Motion for Extension of Time and/or Continuation of Trial Date, Doc. No. 22, and a Motion to Advance Hearings on Motions. Doc. No. 26. The Magistrate Judge granted the Motion to Advance and set all three pending Motions for a February 20, 2013 hearing. Doc. No. 30. On February 15, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Protective Order. Doc. No. 34.

On March 12, 2013, the Magistrate Judge issued a Findings and Recommendation to Dismiss Action ("F&R to Dismiss"), denying the Motion for Protective Order and imposing the following conditions: (1) that Defendant be awarded reasonable attorneys' fees; and (2) that Plaintiff serve a written response to Defendant's request for production of documents. Doc. No. 38, F&R to Dismiss at 2. On April 2, 2013, this court adopted the F&R to Dismiss. Doc. No. 43.

Meanwhile, on March 14, 2013, Defendant filed a Declaration of Leta

H. Price Regarding Attorneys' Fees, in which it sought $6,625.00 in attorneys' fees. Doc. No. 40. On March 18, 2013, Plaintiff filed its Declaration of James J. Stone Re Request for Attorneys' Fees, Doc. No. 41, and on March 26, 2013, Defendant filed a Reply. Doc. No. 42. On April 4, 2013, the Magistrate Judge issued his F&R awarding attorneys' fees of $6,525.00, Doc. No. 45, to which Plaintiff filed its Objection on April 18, 2013, Doc. No. 46. Pursuant to Local Rules 7.2(d) and 74.2, the court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When a party objects to a magistrate judge's findings or recommendations, the district court must review de novo those portions to which the objections are made and "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 673 (1980); United States v. Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc) ("[T]he district judge must review the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations de novo if objection is made, but not otherwise.").

Under a de novo standard, this court reviews "the matter anew, the same as if it had not been heard before, and as if no decision previously had been rendered." Freeman v. DirecTV, Inc., 457 F.3d 1001, 1004 (9th Cir. 2006); United States v. Silverman, 861 F.2d 571, 576 (9th Cir. 1988). The district court need not hold a de novo hearing; however, it is the court's obligation to arrive at its own independent conclusion about those portions of the magistrate judge's findings or recommendation to which a party objects. United States v. Remsing, 874 F.2d 614, 616 (9th Cir. 1989).

IV. ANALYSIS

Plaintiff asserts the following objections: (1) Defendant is not entitled to an award of attorneys' fees because it is not a prevailing party; (2) the Magistrate Judge erred by recommending fees for work performed after Plaintiff filed its Motion to Dismiss; (3) the Magistrate Judge erred by recommending fees for work that can be used in the state court actions; and (4) fees were recommended for 1.2 hours that should be deemed clerical. The court will address these objections in turn.

A. Defendant Is Not a Prevailing Party

District courts have broad discretion to impose an award of attorneys' fees as a condition for dismissing an action without prejudice. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(2) (providing that "an action may be dismissed at the plaintiff's request only by court order, on terms that the court considers proper"); see also Smith v. Lenches, 263 F.3d 972, 978 (9th Cir. 2001) (reviewing district court's decision regarding an award of attorneys' fees and costs relating to federal law suit voluntarily dismissed for abuse of discretion); Westlands Water Dist. v. United States, 100 F.3d 94, 96 (9th Cir. 1996) (remanding for determination whether fees and costs should be imposed as a condition of dismissal without prejudice, and noting that pursuant to Rule 41(a)(2) the court may impose "any terms and conditions [it] deems proper" when granting voluntary dismissal). ...


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